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October 8, 2020

Zaloni Pivots to DataOps

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Zaloni once was focused on helping customers to manage data in Hadoop. But under new CEO Susan Cook, the company has broadened its scope and is now aiming to help customers manage the entire supply chain of data, or what some are now calling DataOps.

Companies are struggling not only to effectively manage their data, according to Cook; they’re also struggling to integrate the various point tools that they use to manage various aspects of their data supply chain. That includes data catalogs, ETL tools, data cleansing tools, data pipeline tools, and even security software, says Cook, who joined Zaloni last fall November.

That, in a nutshell, is what Zaloni is attempting to do: Bring together all of the various tools so that customers can have a single pane of glass for managing their data supply chains, extending from on-premises into the cloud.

“Think about how fragmented your data supply chain gets,” Cooks tells Datanami in a recent interview. “So in my legacy environment, I already have Informatica. I have Collibra as my enterprise data catalog. Then those pesky business users who want to use Tableau or Qlik went out and bought Alteryx to do the data pipeline and data prep.”

DataOps is a continual process, not a technology, says Zaloni (Image courtesy Zaloni)

One would be remiss not to mention all the effort going into AWS Glue and Microsoft Azure functions to string data management processes together in the cloud. And then of course Informatica has a large installed base of customers using its ETL and data transformation capabilities upon data stored in the cloud and on prem.

Zaloni can provide much of the capability contained in many of these offerings. But if customers already have some of these tools in place, then Zaloni becomes something of an air traffic controller by bringing visibility to the whole.

“I think there’s an awakening that we have got to be able to look at the entirety of the data supply chain, and not in pieces,” she says. “Just imagine how many points of failure or points of fragmentation that your data governance has when you have picked all these tools.”

To be the “governor of the governors,” as Cook calls it, Zaloni needs to play well with others. It’s established a few key partnerships with vendors that offer point solutions in data cataloging and ETL. It’s working with cloud vendors like Azure, Snowflake, and Databricks, as well as database companies like MongoDB and even (Hadoop) data platform firms like Cloudera.

“Are we trying to be all things to all people? The answer is no,” Cook says. “But we’re going to make some pretty good bets with where our customers are going.”

Susan Cook, Zaloni CEO

So far, the feedback from Zaloni’s customers has been positive, Cook says. The name of the game in data today is flexibility, and Zaloni’s goal is to give analysts and data scientists the maximum amount of flexibility to move, prep, and consume data as they see fit, while adhering to modern security and governance requirements.

With so many point tools, customers are attempting to build integrations that connect the dots and gives them top-down view into what’s going on with their data supply chains. But that’s not working out very well for most of them, Cook says.

“The technology is changing so fast, but they’re not an ISV. They don’t build software for a living,” she says. “They don’t want to do all these integrations. We feel like we found a problem areasthat nobody has found an elegant way to solve for yet.”

Cook brings a certain perspective to the problem that’s rooted in experience. It would probably be easier to name the BI and analytics tool companies that she hasn’t worked for over the past three decades than the one she has. Needless to say, despite the seemingly endless wave of change we seem to be riding in big data and analytics, Cook sees existing patterns and echoes of the past where others see newness.

“Everybody gives lip service to ‘Data is the new oil, data is your greatest assets, data is now a strategic resource.’ Yet we still don’t recognize that it has its own supply chain,” she says. “And we haven’t figured out that anything with its own supply chain needs its own supply chain  management platform. In the old days, we would be the MRP for your data. And I think there was a need for it.”

In July, Zaloni shipped the version 6.0 release of its platform, dubbed the Arena release. This release is significant, Cook says, because it cuts the last dependency that Zaloni’s data management tools had on Hadoop.

“When I came in in November, we immediately put out foot on the accelerator to become independent from Hadoop,” Cook says. “Zaloni made its early, early reputation as the data lake company, and we very quickly pivoted in November-December timeframe to become a unified DataOps platform.”

Zaloni customers no longer require a Hadoop cluster at the center of their data ecosystem. Hadoop still plays a role, of course, as there are many working Hadoop clusters in the wiold still providing value. But there is also data residing in Kafka clusters, Teradata systems, Salesforce implementations, and data warehouses running on RedShift and Snowflake that need to be brought into the data supply chain.

Being a data-driven organization is an aspiration that many have, but to get there, one needs to pay attention to the details. And above all, the right piece of data must be available at the right time to make that decision.

“That’s what a data driven organization means,” Cook says. “The problem is we’ve been living in this world where it’s who’s data? And where did it come from? Do you trust it?  Who else uses it?  Do you believe it?

“We’re asking all those questions again and again and again,” she continues “When you’re asking those questions, it means you’re not data driven, so I think we can really help enterprises feel that confidence and trust because there’s atualy a mangemetn and governance layer that answers those questions immediately.”

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